Normal

let’s face it.   the church is into marketing itself.   it’s pretty big business these days.

now i’m not really against marketing,  even though it can make my stomach start to knot a little.

we love to define ourself.   and the words we use have changed a lot over my years in church leadership.   here are some of the more popular terms churches…especially the newer and hipper ones…like to use to make people want to come through their doors:

  • we’re relevant
  • we’re authentic
  • we’re missional
  • we’re real
  • we’re friendly
  • we’re uplifting
  • we’re inclusive
  • we’re contemporary

i actually kind of like some of those words.   over the years,  i’ve defintely used a few of them to describe and promote our church family.

not so much anymore.

not that they aren’t true on some level.   i think they are.   but labels can be a little misleading.   is everybody in our church missional?   what are we an authentic brand of?   are we really inclusive  of everybody?   relevant  to whom?   contemporary…by whose standards?

i think what i would really rather put on our website home page…or on the literature we hand out to guests…or,  better yet,  on our building signage…in big,  bold letters is:   WE’RE NORMAL.

now don’t go all psycho-babble crazy on me.   i know there is no normal  when it comes to personality development and family orientation and the like.   i’ve gone to school.   how i use the concept of normal is a lot simpler.

i think sometimes church people come off like we’re really different than everybody else.   but we’re not.   we have financial pressure.   our kids get sick and puke.   we have to mow our lawns.   our cars break down.   our in-laws come to town.   we still have a lot of spiritual questions.   our marriages are not perfect.   neither are our kids.   we have favorite television shows and we go to the movies.   we have doubts.   we like to laugh.   we’re on facebook.   we yell for our favorite teams.   we want to be better.

and for me,  that’s what normal means.   we’re not super spiritual…as if any of us know what that means.   we don’t have all the answers.   we are who we are…warts and all.   and we don’t try to come off as something we’re not.   we don’t hide it.   we don’t flaunt it.

it’s probably not very attractional  by today’s church growth standards.   but i think it works for us.

in our effort to live up to our high calling…and our push to be everything the example of christ demands…we are simply regular folks.

and for some,  that’s exactly what they are looking for to help them take the next step on their journey with…or to… jesus.

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after the first week of team competition,  the results are in:

team madre – 36.5  total pounds lost

team padre – 31.5  total pounds lost

great job,  losers!

if there are any of you out there that want a little help and accountability to lose some unwanted poundage,  just give me a shout.   let me know here in the comment section,  or send me an email  (mikef@npcc.cc). 

it’s all private and all about the teams.   we even have our own Padre’s Biggest Loser facebook groupso you can meet some of the others on the journey.   Come on…get out of your recliner!

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A thought on parenting

i love watching kid’s sports.   i have such amazing memories of my time as a dad that i got to watch my own boys play.   there’s probably not a day that goes by that i don’t wish i could go back and live it all over again.

and for all the losses and near misses and injuries and times that i thought my sons were not treated fairly  (just like ever other dad feels at one time or another) and tears and disappointments…i would take the experience again.   just as it was.   exactly the same.   it was that good.

tonight,  i got to watch chris umpire for a few innings…and then i stopped off and watched corey coach a few innings.   it just happened to work out that way.   a very cool little gift.   i also got to watch a bunch of parents…and some of it wasn’t pretty.

…and i was reminded,  at both games,  of an ugly reality.

it hurts me deeply to know that there are many kids that have to overcome the mess their parents make in their (the kids) lives.   i watch as kids act in certain ways and it is obvious it is in response to what they have experienced at home.

i see kids with no confidence…fear of failure…or bad attitudes.   i see kids who hunger for attention…who act out…or have discipline problems.   i see kids who crumble in the face of criticism.   i see kids who have the hallow eyes of being preoccupied with something else.   i see kids that are sad,  disinterested,  or angry.

i see young athletes that have already learned to be quitters.   i see young athletes who already have no resolve to stare adversity in the face.   i see young athletes that don’t know how to keep fighting when all appears to be lost.   i see young athletes who know nothing of endurance,  commitment,  tenacity,  follow through,  loyalty,  or selflessness.

they are clueless about what it means to take one for the team.

and i hold parents responsible.

parents need to realize that parenting isn’t a game.   it’s life and death.   every day is important.   every word is important.   every look is important.   we are the shapers of our own kid’s hearts and psyches.   nobody else will do this for us.  

our words can build up or tear down.   our presence can inspire or deflate.   our decisions can build confidence or undermine security.   our choices can encourage trust and loyalty or rob their joy and emotional well-being.

parents…you really only get one shot at this.

do it well.

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okay all you losers…

today is the day you weigh in and start your weight loss plan.   happy losing.

for the record,  the guys are going to have to work extra hard.   team madre has twelve women and team padre has only five guys.   so here’s my challenge:

we need more guys!

both teams can add members at any time,  but the guys can’t be dropping too far behind this early.   so if you know of a guy who needs to drop a few…and could benefit by a little competition and accountability in the weight-loss area,  send them my way.

soon.

A thought on easter

i remember when easter morning was the biggest day of the year at the church i grew up in.

the early morning sunrise service at the beach or at one of the local memorial parks around san diego…and always followed by a pancake breakfast in the church fellowship hall for everyone.   the women taking care of all the details,  while the men stood protecting the griddles.   i still have a memory of the bacon smell in that old room.

after breakfast there was always time to go home,  clean up and get ready for the easter service.

every little kid had on their sunday best.   many in some brand new easter outfits.   girls in frilly pastel dresses with bows in their hair and white gloves with lace.   boys in sharp three-piece suits with clip on ties…and dress shirts that wouldn’t stay tucked in while they ran through the foyer of the sanctuary.

the women were always in new dresses…bright colors and floppy hats.   always a corsage on their shoulder or wrist.   the men in full-size suits to match all the little men.

the sanctuary was adorned with white lilies down the isles and on the stage and huge colorful floral arrangements at the entrances and on either side of the communion table.   the congregation would sing all four verses of  “he arose”,  “christ the lord is risen today”  and  “he lives”…every easter.

the choir would always sing a mini-cantata  (because the full-blown cantata was usually reserved for christmas).   we would sing  “when i survey the wonderous cross”  for the communion song  and there would definitely be a dueling piano-organ offertory to fire up people to give a little extra money.

you could bet the house that the preacher would have his best sermon of the year…complete with convincing proofs of the resurrection and a passionate invitation for people to walk down the aisle and accept jesus christ as their personal lord and savior.

and if nobody came,  you could be sure there would be a few extra verses of  “just as i am”  to help motivate the unregenerate.   even if there weren’t any there among the hundred or so…

there’s something about the innocence and simplicity of those days that i miss.   though not the suit.

these days,  easter has taken on some changes.   just this past weekend,  i’ve read about churches that had helicopter drops of candy…live farm animals…1000’s of door hanger invitations…massive kid’s musicals…bounce houses…easter egg hunts…over-the-tops stage sets…celebrity guest speakers…

hey,  we even had a church here in the great state that had tim tebow come and speak a few words.   they had over 15,000 people show up…nearly doubling their regular attendance.

i even heard of a church that gave away iPads and a free car.   happy easter!

believe it or,  i’m not feeling particularly critical today.   go figure.   if all that stuff results in somebody experiencing the hope and new life that jesus came to give,  then i have to see good in it.   but it’s not without a cost.

over the years,  i’ve seen just about every form of bait and switch  the church has had to offer.   and they all leave a problem that has to be faced.

the temptation for many churches is  to make easter… or christmas…into these spectacular church services.   not  because that’s who we are or what we do all the time,  but because we think maybe we’ll have visitors.   but the problem is  we aren’t necessarily showing them who we really are…the rest of the time.   it’s almost as if we are hiding our true selves.   by putting on a bigger show than normal,  we’re putting on a mask… hoping they’ll be super impressed and like us and come back.

but are we really being honest when our easter and christmas services don’t look like they normally do throughout the rest of the year?   are we setting ourselves up for unrealistic expectations?   are we setting up our new friends for failure?

maybe we should just be who we are and let god do what he wants in the hearts of people.

for the record,  we did an extra song at north point yesterday.   a way better use of that five minutes than people listening to me.

have a great week.

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in case you didn’t read saturday’s blog post,  you need to go here and read it.   starting wednesday,  we’re going to do a little team competition/accountability weight loss plan for those of us who have been having a little too much fun at the feeding trough lately.

if you need to shed a few pounds…and want some help doing it…sign up for the padre’s biggest loser.   you’ll be glad you did.

The Biggest Loser…returns.

well,  you knew it was only a matter of time.

the padre’s biggest loser is back.   and none too late.

for the uninitiated,  the padre’s biggest loser is a way for you to shed some unwanted poundage that you have added over the last year.   or more.

the padre’s biggest loser is a competition between team madre  (wanda’s team of women) and team padre (mike’s team of men).

start date:  wednesday,  april 11
end date: wednesday,  july 4

that’s twelve weeks…84 days…almost three months.   that’s plenty of time to do some serious weight damage!

rules for individuals:

  • weigh yourself…you probably need to tell someone else for accountability.
  • you don’t have to make your weight public.
  • every tuesday, you report how many pounds you lost in the previous week.
  • if you are on team madre,  you report to wanda…if you are on team padre,  you report to mike.
  • you can send your weight loss three ways:  text,  email,  or here on the blog.
  • if you gain any weight and then lose it again, those pounds do not count.   example:

o starting weight = 150
o week 1 – 3lbs lost (147)
o week 2 – 2lbs lost (145)
o week 3 – 3lbs gained (148)
o week 4 – 2lbs lost…do not count (146)
o week 5 – 2lbs lost…only one counts (144)
o make sense? no rewards for yo-yo losing!

  • you can report your weight gain for accountability or not.    if you don’t want to admit it, just report no weight loss.
  • again…you don’t have to tell how much you weigh…only how much you lose each week!

rules for teams:

  • recruit people to be on your team…our goal is to have the same number of men and women.
  • it would be great if each team member would subscribe to my blog,  in order to make weekly reports…but more importantly,  to get up to date reports.
  • on next friday,  i’ll post the total number of team members…so get busy!

general rules:

  • you can use any weight loss plan you choose.
  • we won’t keep track of inches lost…even though you should definitely do that personally.
  • i’ll probably ask you to tell about your plan by commenting on my blog…optional, but could be really good.
  • for the next three months, you’ll get to keep up on “The Padre’s Biggest Loser” every wednesday on my blog…full of helpful hints, encouragement, stories, and suggestions from all of us!

so there it is.

anybody can make the commitment.   no matter where you live.   no matter if we know you or not.   you just need to join up and tell us who you are (so we know which team you go on).

do you need to lose some weight?   join the club!   is it hard to own up to it?   join the club!   are you tired of trying to do this alone?   well…join the club!

no more excuses.   join the club…  the padre’s biggest loser club!

Biggest Loser…Results Update

not a great week,  but we’re hanging in there!

team madre  – 7.5  pounds lost  –  ( 223.5  total pounds lost)

team padre –  3.5  pounds lost  –  (169.5  total pounds lost)

that’s 393 total pounds lost! amaaaazing!

i know it’s getting down near the end.   give it your best.   looking forward to checking in next week!

Some thoughts on losing weight

i am pretty much an expert on losing weight.   gaining back the weight, also.

like i said when we first began this  biggest loser experiment,  i’ve lost and gained the same 40-45 pounds multiple times during my life.

i would lose it over 2-3 months.   i had a couple of favorite diets that would always work for me.   i would get fed up with my clothes fitting too tight and feeling crappy all the time,  so i would bite the bullet and dive head first into one of my favorite diets.   i would start working out again.   and the weight would come off.

and then over the course of the next year or two,  i would go back to my old eating habits and the weight would always come back.   same thing every time.   because of my wonderful body type,  nobody ever really notices weight gain or weight loss too much.   so this has always been a very private battle.

the past couple of years have been tough.   i found myself giving up.   for the first time in my life,  i was having conversations with myself about resigning…about accepting that i was never going to be strong and healthy and…young…again.   i was battling depression.   it was beginning to affect every area of my life.

i had lost motivation.   my knees were hurting more than ever.   the steroid shots and anti-inflammatory medication was not working the way it had in the past.   the doctor talked to me about knee replacements.  ugh.   the herniated disc in my back began to flair up more frequently.   the doctor used the word degeneration. double ugh.   arthritis in every joint.

i can’t even dunk a basketball.   never could, but i just thought i’d tell you.

i was tired all the time.   it was getting harder and harder to concentrate when i studied.   i really missed playing sports.  i mean i really started to miss it and began struggling with the fact that i may never play…anything…again.   in spite of all the great things  about growing older and wiser,  i was stuck on the negatives.   something had to change.

i admitted two things.

first, i couldn’t keep doing things the same way.   my weight loss – weight gain patterns were unhealthy and ultimately they were failures.   i couldn’t do the same things and expect different results.   only an idiot would do that.

so,  i’m an idiot.

second, i knew i couldn’t do this alone.   i had always taken pride…yeah, that nasty little thing…in being able to lose weight whenever i wanted to,  without anything but my own will power.   that’s the problem with pride and will power:   sooner or later,  you will fall.   every time.   and i did.   every time.

that’s where the padre’s biggest loser idea came from.   i thought if i included others in my journey…and made it our journey…i would have some honest and healthy accountability.   it couldn’t hurt.

so here’s where i’m at.   after 10 weeks,  i have lost 15 pounds.   15 pounds!   in the past,  if i hadn’t lost 15 pounds in the first three weeks,  i would have quit.   this time it’s different.   here are some things that are different for me this time around:

my weight loss goal is to lose an average of 1-2 pounds per week…not 8-10.   i’ve learned (through reading and experience) that slow weight loss is the only real way to keep weight off in the long run.   slow, methodical, a-little-bit-at-a-time weight loss.

i don’t get disappointed if i don’t lose any weight in a particular week.   i’m a tortoise, not a hare.   this is a marathon, not a sprint.   a huuuuge change of perspective for me.

i don’t diet.   i just eat differently.   i’ve learned to make healthier food taste better.   go figure.   wanda and i are loosely following the abs diet. you should check it out.  a simple, eating plan.  i’m always full and always satisfied.  i still eat all my favorite foods.  here are some of my eating rules:

  • i eat oatmeal for breakfast 4-5 days a week.   raisin bran or cheerios the other days.
  • i eat six times a day.   i always eat between breakfast, lunch and dinner.   apples,  bananas,  string cheese,  cashews, almonds, clif bars, yogurt, etc…
  • i don’t count calories.
  • i eat until i’m full.   i seldom overeat.
  • i only weigh once a week.
  • high, high fiber meals.   beans, whole grain pastas, eggs, roasted vegetables, avocados, leaner cuts of meat.
  • no late night meals.
  • lots of smoothies.  my usual snack at night…or a bowl of cereal.
  • 9-grain whole wheat sandwiches from subway or the grilled chicken from whataburger are my favorite fast foods.
  • i’ve cut out my two favorite trigger foods: chips and salsa…and chocolate chip cookies.  but i can still get my mexican food fix by a bowl of beans with a side of chicken or taco meat from bueno…with lots of pico, onions, jalapenos and salsa or a burrito bowl from chipotle with double beans and a side of guacamole  or a couple of chicken tacos or breakfast tacos from fuzzy’s.   not bad.
  • an added benefit to the abs diet is the requirement of going off the eating plan for one meal a week.  no joke.  one meal a week we eat anything we want…pizza, buffalo wings, hamburger and fries, chips and queso, whatever.   it’s a necessity to jump start the weight loss metabolism to keep burning fat and not muscle…and we really look forward to it and make plans for it all week!
  • i drink tea and water and a lot less diet coke…but i still drink a little.

so there’s some of my journey.   what about you?   anybody want to write a guest post about your weight loss experience…good or bad?   we’re in this together.   anything we can do to help each other is money.

anybody new want to join the padre’s biggest loser? there’s always room for more!